Just when you thought you couldn't afford flannel anymore, here comes one more fashion trend to take the surplus store out of your price range. "Hip-hop dudes now fancy woodsy workers' duds," claimed the headline from the Flint Journala while back. Now hunting vests and boots are cool, and will soon be out of the price range of the people who wore them because they were cheap. Thanks. All we need now is the cover of Timeto sanctify the trend: "Sex and Teens and Timberland." I didn't dress like Elmer Fudd because I thought it was a fashion statement; I dressed like him because it was the only thing I could afford.
Now, poor students and rural retirees alike can know the pleasure of having mall rats dress exactly like them. Surplus outlets and sporting goods stores will take on the Gap's popularity, clientele, and, yes, prices. Just when you got the impression that every urban square mile of this country had to be legally zoned for a Benetton, it seems that every Farm & Fleet in this country will have to grow itself a strip mall or face indictment under the Sideburns and Stubble Act.
I never tried to be cool, I just tried to avoid being cold. I used to wear my jeans even after they had holes in them because I was too broke to throw them away. Now I'd be mistaken for some trendite who bought new, pre-faded jeans and cut them up, or actually went out and bought them pre-torn. The next logical step, one would imagine, would be to buy jeans that are not only faded and torn, but are already too small for you so you have to give them to your little brother or sister. Pre-hand-me-down jeans. Coming to a mall near you. The way you let people know you're cool is, you drag your younger siblings with you everywhere you go. It'll fit in nicely with the child-rearing trend that's swept this country like bunny-buying around Easter time.
This latest trend will leave a lot of people displaced fashion-wise. It would be ideal to find a homeland, some kind of clothing the suburbanites would never wear, but, judging from Day-glo and gimme caps, no such thing exists. There is nothing, be it sack cloth or ashes, that people will not wear if someone tells them to. Give a few months, and they'll be wearing Pillsbury's Best on their backsides. People did that during the Depression, but that was because they were desperately poor, not desperately trendy.
The only thing to do, I guess, is stay two steps ahead of the trend, and have plenty of yard sales. Whether we like it or not, we are harnessed to the consumer culture like dogs on a sled, and the only difference between being in front and being in back is what gets in your face.
© 1994 Randel Shard. First published in Funny Pages in February 1995.